Iran and Saudi Arabia to Renew Ties in China-Brokered Deal
On Friday, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to restore diplomatic relations after seven years of hostility. The two nations have been sparring for influence across the Middle East. They back separate sides in the Yemeni civil war. They are the representatives of the two major competing variants of Islam (Sunni Islam for Saudi Arabia; Shia Islam for Iran). Saudi Arabia is closer to the United States and Israel while Iran partners with Russia. The differences between the two sides seemed almost irreconcilable. This is what makes the latest announcement so noteworthy.
According to a joint statement, Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to reopen embassies in their respective capitals, and their foreign ministers will hold a summit in the near future. The two countries also affirmed “the respect for the sovereignty of states and the non-interference in internal affairs of states.” According to anonymous sources cited by the Wall Street Journal, “Iran pledged to halt attacks against Saudi Arabia, including from Houthi rebels it backs in the Yemen civil war.”
New mediator: For decades, the main power broker in the Middle East has been America. But this latest deal was made by a new player in the region: the People’s Republic of China. The negotiations for the deal took place from March 6 to 10 in Beijing. Energy-hungry China has good relations with both oil-producing juggernauts, so it was seen as a natural mediator between Tehran and Riyadh. The agreement is a huge diplomatic win for China and shows its desire to involve itself more and more in the region.
Fraying ties: Many interpret this as a snub by the Saudis to their traditional ally, the United States. Since Joe Biden entered the White House in 2021, relations with the Saudis have deteriorated. Biden has been critical of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and involvement in Yemen. That, plus his shaky commitment to Saudi security, is making Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman edgy.
The future: What China offered both parties behind the scenes is not yet apparent. But it’s unlikely the deal happened because the Saudis and Iranians had a change of heart. Iran is still trying to position itself as the world’s preeminent Islamic power. It is also a terrorist state seeking to export its revolution throughout the Middle East. Bin Salman knows the Iranians are untrustworthy, but America under Biden is also proving to be untrustworthy. The latest deal may show the Saudis are ready to hunt for new international partners. They could see China as a partner to keep Iran from becoming too extreme.
What the Bible says: Psalm 83 prophesies of a Middle Eastern power bloc forming in our day. Verse 6 specifies the “Ishmaelites”—modern Saudi Arabia—will be a part of this alliance. But the main outside power keeping this alliance together is not China. Verse 8 introduces “Assur,” or Assyria—the ancestral peoples of modern Germany. Evidently, the Saudis will keep “ally-hopping” until they settle with Berlin. This alliance will change the world’s geopolitical situation dramatically. Also, Iran will not be part of the Psalm 83 alliance, but will in fact be targeted by a German-led European alliance. So we should not expect this relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia to last.